B-17 ‘Aluminum Overcast’ and EAA Inspiring Future Aviators

'Aluminum Overcast', one of the last flying B-17 Flying Fortresses, rests at Gwinnett County Airport. (Charles Atkeison)

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and her crew are visiting Gwinnett County Airport this weekend to raise support for educational programs designed to inspire future aviators.

The aircraft known as Aluminum Overcast is one of the last flight worthy B-17s able to fly with passengers. Owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, this B-17 and her crew are educating visitors on the importance of its mission during the Second World War.

Today thru Sunday, EAA’s Gwinnett chapter 690 is working with the crew of the historic warbird to inspire the public’s interest in aviation-related fields. Guests are invited to tour inside the B-17 and even fly aboard the silver flying fortress.

‘Aluminum Overcast’ pilots John Litiachi and Lorraine Morris prepare for flight in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Morris says the B-17 is like flying “a cement truck without power steering”. (Charles Atkeison)

“EAA 690 is fortunate to be able to host the B-17 Aluminum Overcast Tour as it helps to provide funds to support our youth programs,” EAA spokesperson Louis Pucci said on Thursday. “Our youth programs include a STEM-oriented aviation build program; Young Eagles, an introduction into aviation; youth aviation summer camp, and flight scholarships.”

This EAA chapter, like many across the United States, is made up of volunteers who are pilots or who have worked in the aviation industry. In addition to the education and events, EAA will help one earn their pilot’s license.

Inspiring the next generation to fulfill a career in aviation is the goal of this B-17s crew. They fly the hulking aircraft backed by 20,000 hours of flying time.

The window view over the port wing of the B-17 ‘Aluminum Overcast’. (Charles Atkeison)

Aluminum Overcast is 75-years-old and remains a living testament to the men who crewed the thousands of B-17s during the war. For many visitors, they are drawn to the aircraft to honor a relative who had served aboard the massive aircraft. 

“This flies like a cement truck without power steering,” Aluminum Overcast pilot Lorraine Morris said moments after landing on Thursday. “The only hydraulics we use are for the breaks and the cowl flaps — everything else is manual.”

During a typical B-17 flight, the aircraft burns nearly 200 gallons of fuel per hour. Its four engines hold 37 gallons of oil and 1700 gallons of fuel each. Many of the B-17s were fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks during the war.

The B-17 Flying Fortress was a hero of World War II Across Europe and the Pacific. (Charles Atkeison)

“You sit in the aircraft and you can’t really dwell on flying the airplane because you get all choked up,” Morris discussed as we sat in the cockpit. “You think of all the men that were in it, and all the people who didn’t come back.”

Morris added that the stories from her passengers have been unbelievable. She only wished there was enough time to tell them all.

“Some people will come up to it to pet it, and one gentleman kissed it because he kissed the B-17 every time he got done with the flight,” she said. “Many people will not even come near it because there are too many memories.”

The EAA Aluminum Overcast tour concludes in a few weeks following four stops across Georgia. Flights and tour details are available here.

November 08 – 10, 2019 | Lawrenceville, GA 
November 12, 2019 | Milledgeville, GA 
November 15 – 17, 2019 | Savannah, GA 
November 22 – 24, 2019 | St. Simons Island, GA

(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)